How American Cities Backed Up The Cannon With The Canner
Enormous as was the quantity of food
packed away in cans by American housewives in the summer of 1918, the quantity
so conserved represented only a fraction of the surplus of American war gardens.
Home canning could not begin to take care of the excess, and therefore, in order
that the Scriptural injunction be followed and "nothing be lost," it was
necessary to establish conservation on a community basis, just as it had been
found helpful to stimulate production through community gardening. These
organized forms of conservation took the shape of community markets for the
distribution, and community canneries for the preservation, of the garden
Though the Commission limited its efforts along these lines
to the furnishing of instructions for conserving food, the work of the community
centers for the sale of garden surplus proved most helpful and is worthy of
mention. The usual custom was for the community club or other organization
conducting the market to charge ten per cent. for selling the products. Many war
gardeners found the community markets an excellent medium for disposing of
surplus vegetables not needed for home consumption. Purchasers, too, were glad
of the opportunity afforded by the community market to secure vegetables that
were fresh and choice.
SCOUTS CAN CAN, TOO
Girl Scouts of the Radnor High School, Wayne, Pennsylvania, under the direction
of Miss Ethel Henderson, receiving instruction in the cold-pack method of
canning. This campaign, conducted through the schools of the country, has
resulted in a wonderful amount of food saving in this way.
One of the most prosperous and successful of these community markets was at
Oakland, California, under the direction of Mrs. James Hamilton, the city
director of food production, who showed courage and energy in pushing her
project to success. It will be well to let her tell something of her own story.
Here is part of what she has to say:
So far this market has been the means of saving hundreds
of tons of vegetables and fruits, together with quantities of berries, eggs,
chickens, pigeons, rabbits and honey. The greater part, if not all, of the
perishables otherwise would have been wasted. This market has taken care of the
war-garden supplies of our city since it was opened, together with the supplies
of several of our big growers of both fruits and vegetables. It will be a very
great means of stimulating production for next year because the grower knows
he will be given a place where he can market his supplies advantageously
In Brookline, Massachusetts, a community market was
established in an unused church, placed at the disposal of the market committee
by the trustees. Here, on two days of each week, surplus garden products could
be brought for sale. As gardening had been stimulated to the maximum there was
much to be sold. Those who wished to sell their own products were provided, at
nominal rental, with individual tables. Sales were made by the market committee
for those not wishing to sell in person. For this service a small percentage of
the selling-price was charged. To this market were brought products from the
school-gardens, the surplus from back-yard gardens, and the excess from
community garden-patches on great estates, where ground had been lent by the
owners for the use of persons who had no garden space. Vast as was the amount of
produce that poured into the market from all these sources, every particle of it
was sold; and ordinarily the market was sold out long before the established
hour of closing. Thus, at practically no expense, and merely by utilizing
facilities at hand, the people of Brookline saved an enormous quantity of food
that otherwise would almost surely have gone to waste.
The women of Roselle, new Jersey, wished to establish a
community market, but lacked what would ordinarily be considered adequate
facilities, until they secured the use of a vacant lot in the town, and then
induced the town council to keep the lot clean. Here, on given days of each
week, were brought all the surplus products of home gardens and even the excess
of neighboring farms which were sold to those who had no gardens or who wished
to buy products that they could not raise in their own yards. Thus the excess of
the entire neighborhood was brought together and utilized.
At first glance Roselle, like many another small town, had no
place which seemed fitted for a community cannery. It had a schoolhouse,
however, and that schoolhouse had a kitchen. Presto! It became a community
cannery. At the community market the conservation committee bought from day to
day such vegetables as it was desired to can, and the transportation committee
conveyed these products, in motorcars lent for the purpose, to the schoolhouse
cannery, where the women of the town did the canning. Thus Roselle did with its
might what its hands found to do––did it with whatever was available.
FLAG OF THE HOME CANNER
Window hangers like this went broadcast throughout the United States and Canada.
Displayed in front windows they carried to all passers-by the message of canning
activities within the homes. The eager demand for these hangers showed the pride
of the home canners in their work.
In similar spirit of determination the women of
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, secured the use of a church kitchen for the summer
of 1917 and there began the conservation of community surplus. Under the
leadership of Mrs. John G. Reading and Mrs. H.C. McCormick, and with the
assistance of Mrs. R.F. Allen and many other able women, this task so humbly
begun grew in size and importance until the canning system embraced the entire
county. In 1918 adequate quarters were secured in the business district. Here
canning outfits were installed, and the women of the city came day after day to
put up the surplus from the market and the excess products brought in by
farmers. A substantial fund had been voted by the local Committee of Safety to
finance this work. Thus the women were able to buy whatever products were
brought in. In seven other districts in the county similar work was going on.
All the canning centers were run on identical lines and all were affiliated with
the central cannery at Williamsport. In this way scores of women throughout the
entire county were drawn into the work. Beyond any question this conservation
movement had much to do with the remarkable community spirit exhibited
throughout the county.
Another interesting example of a community cannery was to
be found in Salt Lake City. Recognizing the need for food conservation, the
city's women first brought about the creation of a community market and later
established a community canning kitchen that was run in connection with that
market. The work as carried on under the chairmanship of Mrs. C.H. McMahon.
The cannery itself consisted of one of the large market
stalls, temporarily enclosed for the purpose and equipped with a complete
canning outfit. Mrs. W.F. Adams, president of the city's federated women's
clubs, was executive head of the organization. She was on duty daily, arriving
at the cannery by 7:30 o'clock in the morning. Each morning the market-master
purchased in the market such products as Mrs. Adams desired. Sometimes he
secured these products direct from the neighboring farms. Occasionally fruit or
vegetables were offered to the cannery free on condition that they be picked and
taken away. In such cases troops of Boy Scouts were utilized to do the
harvesting and motor-cars, offered for the purpose, were used to bring the food
to the cannery. In order that there might be a constant force of women at work,
that the labor should not become irksome to any, and that the interest be as
widespread as possible, Mrs. Adams appointed six lieutenants to look after the
labor supply. Each lieutenant was responsible for supplying a given number of
hands on one day of each week and each lieutenant procured a certain number of
women to pledge themselves to work for her at the cannery on a given day each
week. In this way the supply of labor was assured. Usually there was additional
help, for all volunteers were welcomed.
These three young St. Louis girls are members of one of the Achievement Clubs
which took an active part in many cities in teaching and spreading the doctrine
of proper food preparation and conservation. Canning of surplus vegetables and
fruits was one of their most important accomplishments.
In order that the work might be done scientifically, and
the pack be uniform from day to day, everything was done under the direction of
a paid expert. Visitors were free to come and watch operations, which were thus
a continuous demonstration of scientific canning, and thousands of women who had
come to market only to buy products also dropped into the cannery and learned
the up-to-date methods. The educational value of this effort was beyond
computation. The women of the entire city were reached.
One of the most interesting conservation efforts reported to
the National War Garden Commission was that of the employés in the shop of the
Carolina & Northwestern Railway Company at Hickory, North Carolina. So great was
their enthusiasm that they took the cylinder from an old engine and turned it
into a canning plant. They coupled up this cylinder with the shop steam-boiler,
put on a steam-gauge and drain-cock, and inside the cylinder placed three
shelves of heavy wire to hold the jars of vegetables and fruits. Their community
canning plant was then ready for operation.
Reports to the Commission from all parts of the country
indicated that in a great number of places arrangements were made to preserve
surplus garden products through community canneries, and also showed the success
that attended this effort. Typical of the spirit that animated many of these
reports is a statement in a communication from J.D. Parnell, secretary of the
Chamber of Commerce, Vernon, Texas. Mr. Parnell wrote:
We have a community canner and are preserving everything
that we grow. We are also going outside of our county into the communities
where they are not equipped to preserve perishable stuff and buying surplus.
We can it and sell it to those who have no gardens.
Home demonstration agents of the United States Department
of Agriculture, women's clubs, representatives of manufacturing concerns, gas
and electric companies, and numerous individuals coöperated in this community
canning. "The Federation of Women's Clubs and myself coöperating will supervise
the marketing and the canning of the surplus products of the gardens," was the
report to the Commission from Miss Anna Allen, emergency home demonstration
agent at Independence, Kansas. Similar work was performed in hundreds of places.
The success of these community canneries is indicated by many
reports such as one from Dallas, Texas, which boasted of 20,000 war gardens in
1918, with 17,500 cans of vegetables preserved after the plant had been in
operation only a few weeks. This same Texas report told of community
canneries at Austin, Beaumont, Marshall, and Corsicana. The last named was in
the Odd Fellows Hall and was operated by the children. During the first week of
its existence the community cannery at Temple, where there were 5,000 war
gardens, took care of one ton of black-eyed peas. The cannery at Beaumont had a
capacity of 500 cans daily.
Thus, in hundreds of community canneries the country over,
thousands of women were saving the excess food upon which the fate of democracy
rested, and practicing, as they canned, democracy itself.